The Jordaan district is a trendy, charming area in Amsterdam full of boutiques, cafes and cobblestone streets. Built in 1612 to house the working class, the neighbourhood now has a gentrified population of creatives and professionals.
The peaceful streets and canals transport you to a completely different world away from the noise and crowds of the area around Central Station. Yet, the Jordaan is only about a 10 minute walk from tourist central, Dam Square.
Exploring the Jordaan
1. Find the hidden playgrounds and quiet inner courtyards
Behind the pretty facades of the houses, there were beautiful not-so-secret inner courtyards for the benefit of the locals (and nosy tourists). For example, across from the Noorderspeltuin (a large playground) was the courtyard of the buildings on the Karthuizerstreet. Amsterdam has 47 such courtyards and most of them are in the Jordaan.
The playgrounds are sprinkled throughout the streets. One of the playgrounds we saw had chickens and a rabbit. The building residents had left scooters and bicycles around as well which our children enjoyed borrowing.
2. If you are feeling brave, you can rent boats of the Jordaan canals. You will have to share canal space with other ‘real’ boats going about their everyday business so make sure you know what you are doing! You can rent electric boats from Sloepdelen and pedal boats from Canelbike.
3. Rent a bike from Workcycle or Bike City and pedal around the charming streets.
4. Go hunting for stone tablets that grace the buildings of the Jordaan. In the old days, these tablets would indicate the profession of the people inside. In the 16th century, these tablets were used as signs instead of wooden gables that blocked the little streets.
Foodies in the Jordaan
5. Hang out in sunshine at one of the local cafes and watch life go by. We liked eating crepes on the Prinsengracht across from the Anne Frank House.
6. Try the best apple pie in Amsterdam at Cafe Winkel right near the Noordermarkt.
7. Not feeling in the mood for apple pie? Other cafes to try are Cafe Finch also near the Noordermarkt and Moods Coffee Corner (at Lindengracht 249) for coffee and cake.
8. Sometimes only ice-cream will do. For a high-value and yummy treat, check out Monte Pelmo which has been voted the best ice cream in Amsterdam.
9. If you want something more substantial, check out Caffe de Curtis (Italian food), Manger Maintenant (French food to take away) and Toscanini (more Italian food).
Culture in the Jordaan
10. Have a snoop around some of the beautifully decorated houseboats especially on the Prinsengracht.
11. The Houseboat Museum on Prinsengracht as well is really fascinating for a glimpse into how people live on houseboats. An added bonus for children is that it is not very big.
12. On the Jordaan border because of its location on the Prinsengracht, the Anne Frank House is a must-visit in the area. As most people know, the Anne Frank House is where a Jewish teenage girl wrote her famous diary when she and her family were hiding from the Nazis.
13. Next door to the Anne Frank House is the Westerkerk which is still a working church. Rembrandt is buried here. From the tower, you have great views over the city.
14. The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is interesting if you really like tulips but a browse through their store (free of charge) is probably enough for most children.
Shopping in the Jordaan
15. There are lots of quirky little stores and boutiques to explore. My kids were fascinated with all the Japanese items at Roppongi as well as the truly kitschy Kitsch Kitchen both on Rozengracht.
16. The antiques market on Elandsgracht is open every day but there are other markets open as well on other days as well such as the Noordermarkt (a farmers’ market and flea market) on Saturdays. Our kids love looking for random things in street markets.
There is plenty to do in Jordaan that you can while away the hours in this neighbourhood. I’ve kept the suggested activities to what I consider the most interesting part of the Jordaan. We stayed in this part of the Jordaan north of Rozengracht because there’s a lot of walking involved otherwise. We still used a carrot on a stick approach with the children (a bit of sightseeing or shopping mixed in with playgrounds and snack breaks) to see the neighbourhood.
Have you been to the Jordaan? Do you have any suggestions for family-friendly activities that I have missed?
I was at dinner in Amsterdam in an Italian restaurant by myself when the restaurant cat came and sat across from me. Yes, there are cats in Amsterdam everywhere and some of them hang out at the pubs and restaurants. My little visitor was actually pretty funny looking at me as if he decided I needed a dinner companion. I chose a Margarita pizza and I’m sure he was thinking it should at least have had a tuna or anchovy topping. You can pretty much see the look of disdain on his face.
The cat who came to dinner at Casa di David, one of the best restaurants in Amsterdam.
The cat wasn’t much of a conversationalist but I’ve definitely had worse dinner companions! The cat belonged to the restaurant, Casa di David is located at Singel 426, right on a canal. Case di David has been listed on both Conde Nast Traveller and TripAdvisor as one of the best Italian restaurants in Amsterdam. They are known especially for their freshly-made pasta and wood-fired pizza.
The wood-fired pizza at Casa di David, one of the best Italian restaurants in Amsterdam.
A little thing like having no dinner companions was not getting between that pizza and me! Have you eaten alone at a restaurant before? It invariably becomes part of your travel experience at some point. These tips about dining solo in Spain are applicable in other circumstances.
You might think its unhygienic to have a cat in a restaurant. I don’t think its any different from a house cat personally. An interesting British article points out that Amsterdam has a mouse problem thanks to its location on the water. A cat in a restaurant is actually a sign of a good restaurant because then you know the restaurant doesn’t have a mouse problem.
I’m thinking my dinner companion is a bit bored.
Other Great Eateries in Nine Streets
My family were with me in Amsterdam for a long weekend. Before they left we had lots of fun trying out some local restaurants in the Nine Streets area where we were staying and the nearby Jordaan.
Singel 404, a few doors down from Casa di David, is great for takeaway sandwiches. The cafe part of Singel 404 is tiny and always full. Your best option is to order your sandwich and eat it overlooking the canal in front. The choice of sandwiches is plentiful because they are freshly made on site.
If you go in the other direction on Singel, you will find Sampurna, an Indonesian restaurant located just past the famous flower market. We found it accidentally because we went looking for the flower market which was a bit disappointing. So we decided to drown our sorrows in tasty Indonesian food. This restaurant has been in business for 25 years and is filled more with locals than tourists. We only found out later that it was recommended as among the Top 10 Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam and on the Eating Amsterdam food tour. Technically I’m not sure Sampurna is within the 9 Streets micro-neighbourhood even though it’s on Singel.
The Flower Market is on Singel overlooking a canal.
I swear we left Singel even though it may sound like we didn’t!! Technically we didn’t venture very far because we loved the 9 Streets and adjoining Jordaan neighbourhoods so much that we spent most of the time we had in Amsterdam hanging out in these areas.
Wolvenstraat 23 is a restaurant with no name because people refer to it by its address (Wolvenstraat 23). It’s a happening bar by night but we went during the day with the children for lunch.
Amsterdam and its Cats
The people in Amsterdam love its cats. The kitty that joined me for dinner at Casa di David was its restaurant cat. He wandered around between the tables before he sat down with me.
You will find the Catboat (De Poezenboot) also located on a houseboat on Singel. The Amsterdam catboat is a shelter for stray and abandoned cats and is open for visits for limited hours to the public.
Many of the pubs and cafes have a resident cat in Amsterdam. Similar to the book [easyazon_link identifier=”0993570216″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]London Pubcats[/easyazon_link] about kitties in London watering holes, there is also a book about Amsterdam Pub Cats.
Of course, the cat cafe craze which started in Japan has come to this city as well. Check out Kopjes Cat Cafe in West Amsterdam if you want to get your caffeine and kitty fix.
The cats in Amsterdam lead an undeniable charm to the city.
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(Updated January 2017)
You wouldn’t think seven-year-olds would do a design tour of Amsterdam would you? Well, my children surprised even me. OK, I admit, I sprinkled in design stores with liberal stops for snacks and playgrounds.
The weekend we were in Amsterdam was the 10th annual city tour for Elle Inside Design Amsterdam. It consisted of stores, pop-up shops, galleries, cafes and hotels all with a design interest. Mostly, we just wandered the city and went into a place whenever we saw the yellow Inside Design sign.
Mariska Meijers Amsterdam
The Mariska Meijers store on Singel was right next to where we were staying. Mariska was on hand to discuss her work. She is an artist as well as a product designer. We loved her bright exuberant colours and intricate patterns. I bought one of the tray tables from her store – they store flat and are perfect for drinks when guests come over.
There was a pop-up shop for Workmates Presents, a Dutch industrial design collective, in the underground train station being built to connect the north and south of Amsterdam. My son was completely fascinated to see a station in the process of being built. Apparently the project is 5 years behind schedule but this particular station will be open in a few months. Yes, and I’ve got a bridge I want to sell you.
My kids absolutely loved Kitsch Kitchen located on the edge of the Jordaan neighbourhood because of its grown-up novelty store vibe. They sell furniture, paper, toys, desk accessories etc. all with a kitschy aesthetic. In small doses, these products would inject a sense of humour into your home. The skull candle below would fit into this year’s trend for adding a dark edge to your home.
Across the street from Kitsch Kitchen, Roppongi is a Japanese store selling beautiful Japanese handicrafts, clothes and food. My son bought a lovely set of chopsticks shaped like the shinkansen (bullet train).
Walls Gallery is an art gallery located on one of the main canals, Prinsengracht. They put on a display of interesting (maybe a bit too far fetched for me) design objects. My family opted to sit outside and watch the canal boats at this place. I liked the pretty mustard coloured bulb-shaped candles and also the candleholder which spun around from the heat of the melting candles.
Dutch Design Year
Dutch Design Year had a pop-up shop and art gallery in a venue near Central Station. They had a variety of cool items. I couldn’t resist buying the molded candle below.
All The Luck in The World and Charlie+Mary/The Proud Otter Cafe
All the Luck in the World is a store in De Pijp (a trendy up-and-coming area) right near the Albert Cuypstraat market. Although this street market is supposed to be the most famous in The Netherlands, we found it crowded and full of junk. All the Luck in the World, though, has got lots of great new designs, vintage finds and handcrafted items. Next door is a clothes concept store (Charlie+Mary) which has a cafe in the back with delicious cakes (The Proud Otter Cafe). After pushing through a sea of humanity at the street market, we were grateful for a calm place to have a drink and a snack.
All The Luck In The World
We also had lunch at Wolvenstraat 23 a hip cafe in the 9 Streets neighborhood. The walls were filled with art, the tables teeming with trendy locals and the food was excellent. Apparently, this place is famous for having no name – Wolvenstraat 23 is technically the address. Even Prince when he was going through his no-name phase used a symbol as an identifier.
What did you think? Would you consider doing a design tour in a city that you are visiting?